California Emissions Rise in 2012 on Gas-Fired Power Output

Greenhouse-gas emissions from power generators, oil refineries and other plants in California climbed in 2012 as a nuclear plant shutdown and low hydropower supplies increased the state’s reliance on natural gas.

Power-plant releases rose 35 percent to 41.6 million metric tons last year, according to data posted today on the state Air Resources Board’s website. Total emissions were 437.8 million metric tons, up from 429.3 million in 2011. Edison International shut the San Onofre nuclear power plant in Southern California in January 2012, and the state that year faced one of the lowest snowpack levels on record.

“The rise in total emissions is primarily due to emission increases from California electricity generation using natural gas as a fuel,” the board said. “The majority of this additional natural-gas electricity generation is due to a decrease in available hydroelectric generation for 2012 and a reduction in nuclear generated power.”

More than 700 companies, including fuel suppliers and electric power importers, must report their emissions as part of a cap-and-trade program designed to cut greenhouse-gas pollution in California, the world’s ninth-largest economy, to 1990 levels by 2020. The program established the world’s second-largest carbon market, in which polluters trade permits that allow them to release carbon dioxide.

Market Unchanged

Futures contracts based on California carbon allowances, each permitting the release of a metric ton of carbon as early as this year, climbed 10 cents on Nov. 1 to $12.10 a metric ton, data compiled by Chicago-based CME Group Inc. show. Prices have dropped 20 percent this year on speculation that the market will be oversupplied until at least 2017.

“More than 200,000 tons traded today on the emissions reporting news, but the market is unchanged from the Friday closing price of $12.10,” broker Environmental Markets Inc., based in White Plains, New York, said in a note on its website.

Emissions were up last year as 100 more plants fell under the state’s greenhouse-gas reporting rules, the state air board said.

Refineries and hydrogen plants released 33.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, down from 34.2 million a year earlier. Oil and gas production accounted for 15.2 million tons, up from 14.6 million in 2011.

Emissions from electricity imports and fuel suppliers slipped 1.5 percent to 314.6 million metric tons.

Under California’s cap-and-trade program, the state issues a set number of allowances through a combination of free allocations and quarterly auctions. The pool of allowances shrinks over time in order to cut emissions about 15 percent by 2020. Companies with more permits than they need to cover releases can sell them to those that are short.

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